Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"The Monster-Builder"

The Monster-Builder
Amy Freed

Danny Scheie & Tracy Hazas
Sometimes, no matter the play, seeing one particular actor’s performance is well worth the price of the ticket and the effort of the outing.  And while there is much to like in the total cast and production of Aurora Theatre Company’s The Monster-Builder, the absolutely wicked architect scripted by Amy Freed and embodied to the hilt by Bay Area veteran actor Danny Scheie is the key reason to grab one of the intimate theatre’s seats in this now-extended run.

It only takes a few minutes into the play to realize Amy Freed has a passionate bone to pick with modern designers and builders of ostentatious buildings that do not fit into their surrounding environments.  Young architects and married couple, Rita and Dieter, are being shown the stark, marbled interior of a glass-walled home sans any sign of furniture (part of Tom Buderwitz’s incredibly powerful set design), set on a wooded Puget Sound island in full view of a nearby fishing camp and meth lab.  Famed architect Gregor, accompanied by his latest, high-fashion doll, Tamsin (former college roommate of Rita), struts about waxing on and on how magnificent his work is while listening with a mixture of sarcasm and feigned interest about a project his guests are about to land, a restoration of an 1890s boathouse in a local, urban park.  In defense of their new firm’s intentions to reclaim for the world the sense of community in creating more “commons” spaces, Rita claims, “People need to be defended against architects. ”  At the same time, she is clearly more than a bit intrigued and flattered by Gregor’s increasing interest in her (unlike her husband and partner who mostly scowls at Gregor while making snippy side remarks).  When the two discover the next day that Gregor has used his political influence to win their sure-fire restoration deal, Dieter is enraged while Rita is drawn into the project by the spidery tentacles of the syrupy-sweet promises of the flattering Gregor – setting the scene for an epic battle of wits, words, power-plays, and other-worldly weapons. 

Danny Scheie’s Gregor at first just appears to be a host with monumental-sized self-centeredness, flowing with affected speech that relies way too much on elongated, guttural-sounding “Aaahhhs” and “Ummmms” and overly emphasized final “t’s” and “k’s.”  With voice trailing into oblivion at the ends of phrases and obligatory flippant hand and head tosses, Gregor moves quickly from victim to victim, closing within inches of the targeted face while continuing to talk non-stop about how great he is and how much he knows.  This is a man very proud of his maze-laden design for an Alzheimer residential center and of his new project, the Abu Dhabi Tower of Justice and Interrogation.  In a frenzied, late-night design session, furiously-paces and goes through wild-eyed manipulations of the scantily clothed Tamsin’s long-limbed body (all in view of the nearby fishermen, of course), to arrive at a concept of thousands of people coming and going “out the ass of a big building.”  As the play progresses, Gregor becomes more and more villainous, a Frankenstein without a Hyde to retreat to.  By the Second Act, Danny Scheie calls on every known film and literature devil from Simon Legree to Hannibal Lector to underline Ms. Freed’s true feelings about the modern architects of twisted towers in glass and steel.  Through it all, every audience eye is locked on an inspired performance that drips with sleaze.

Thomas Gorrebeeck, Danny Scheie, Tracy Hazas & Sierra Jolene
Supporting Mr. Scheie is a solid, stars-in-their-own right cast.  Sierra Jolene is stunning in beauty, style, and substance as Tamsin, the Glamour-magazine-looking girlfriend of Gregor whose sliding-scale vocals, batting eyelashes, and just-too-cute laughter hide the courage, determination, and intelligence she will later show to seek well-deserved revenge.  As Deiter, Thomas Gorrebeeck alternates between pouty sullenness and bombastic aggression as he watches the goings-on of the despised Gregor and the magnetism used to attract his wife, Rita.  Later, he will give with full fury and flame a spotlighted, surreal lecture on his surprising discoveries about the master-builder.  As Rita, Tracy Hazas transforms brilliantly from bouncy guest with skeptical but googly eyes for host Gregor to his seriously pandering partner, showing up at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning at Gregor’s private office, dressed-for-the-nines and ready to be seduced by his brilliance and maybe by his older, but still sexy and always-in-black, taut body. 

Rod Gnapp and Nancy Carlin take on the drop-in, mostly insignificant parts of a nouveau riche, married couple, Andy and Pam, and milk them for all they are worth.  Nancy Carlin especially at times is larger than life as a potential client of Dieter and Rita who is looking to re-do a chateau “so that it will feel like a second home instead of a third or fourth” and who loves in full flamboyance of high airs all their ideas -- as long as she has suggested them first.   They and the entire cast are directed by Art Manke to play tongue-in-cheek to the point at times of drawing blood this host of bizarre characters whom together show the excesses and absurdities of the rich and their obsession with building monuments to themselves.  Kent Dorsey shows off the night and day of Tom Buderwitz’s sets with excellent lighting while Rodolfo Ortega’s sound design runs the range from soft sea gulls and lapping waves to soaring opera to Phantom of the Opera organ recital.   Callie Floor puts in the final touches with absolutely knock-'em-dead costumes.

The first half of Amy Freed’s script is satire at its finest, with just the right amount of hilarity, exaggeration, and surprise twists and turns to make it totally intriguing and fascinating to watch. Act Two veers dramatically to farcical sci-fi, strangely akin at times to the second act of Rocky Horror Show, and goes at times over the edge in its demonization of Gregor and with its wild turns in the story line.  In the end, the play becomes a 1950s, B-grade monster movie.  All is acted in outstanding fashion and produced flawlessly by the Aurora team, but it is the script that begins to try to patience as Ms. Freed grinds in ad absurdum her points about modern monster-builders.

Rating: 4 E’s

The Monster-Builder continues at the Aurora Theatre through its extended run until December 20, 2015 at 2018 Addison Street, Berkeley.  Tickets are available online at https://auroratheatre.org/ or by calling the box office at 510-843-4822.

Monday, November 23, 2015

"In Love and Warcraft"

In Love and Warcraft
Madhuri Shekar

Ed Berkeley & Monica Ho
Hormones are racing; hearts are pumping; and bodies are gyrating up and down with sweat dripping freely from head to toe as four SoCal college types (two men, two women) go at it.  But these four are not having a raging sex party in some campus frat or dorm (at least not at this moment).  Instead, they are engaged in mortal battles in a virtual world where, as their Medieval-like warrior avatars, they swing their mighty weapons of tomorrow land against alien-like serpents and dragons of yesteryear.  And while such antics may not sound that much like the opening scenes of a Rock Hudson/Doris Day film, these are in fact the beginning minutes of a delightfully funny and heart-tugging romantic stage comedy in the same genre as those 50s-60s classics.  With a young and talented cast of six and the spot-on direction of James Nelson, The Custom Made Theatre Company presents In Love and Warcraft, a Bay Area premiere of this 2014 script by the up-and-coming playwright, Madhuri Shekar.

Evie is a literature major who has a thriving side business composing emails, texts, and love letters for fellow students who want to meet up, make up, or break up romantically with another person.  Her philosophy is that “all you need (for love) are the right words, the right strategies, and the right commands.”  While she can rapidly spew flowery metaphors and sexually tantalizing lines by the dozens, she herself seems to have no interest in dating  -- and especially not in sex.  “I’m just one of those people who don’t need it,” something that totally exasperates her blonde, sex-bomb roomie Kitty: “Stop just writing about it and do it!”  Any inner tensions that need releasing for Evie come not from jumping into bed with some hot guy but, with her every free moment, plunging into the virtual, role-playing world of “Warcraft” and turning into a hyper, finger-pounding maniac on her computer.  There she joins other equally crazed sorts both that she knows and that she has never met (like Ryan, whom she pretends is her beau … “but not in real life.”)  Something new, however, starts pumping through her veins when dreamy Raul pays her a visit as a client and decides immediately to give up trying to win back an old girlfriend and instead actively pursue the cute and pixie Evie.  While she does find herself stammering and swooning when seeing him and gives into actually dating, she resists even after several weeks any sexual forays beyond a light kiss on too-puckered lips.  When the two eventually agree that she will give up gaming (which Raul finds annoying) if he will give up sex (and just cuddle and hold her hand “to make me feel safe”), it does not take long to see that this is a pact fraught with many sure-fire flaws.  What follows fills up the rest of the two-act play with waves of hilarious misadventures, misunderstandings galore, and other worldly pursuits where love conquers all.

Monica Ho is the gamer Evie who sits crouched on a couch in campus slouch-wear with the furious intensity and passion most often associated with 15-year-old boys in front of their screens of virtual life-and-death struggles.  She also transforms nicely into a bouncy, overly nervous girly-girl, dressed to the nines with flowing black hair, when on her first date with Raul.  Ms. Ho finds a wide range of convincing ways to create an Evie who must figure out where she really wants to win, in the real or the virtual world – or to discover some magical way to do both.

Ed Berkeley’s tall and muscularly framed Raul looms over the tiny Evie with moony eyes, gentle spirit, and hands that stroke lightly and tentatively, always with full respect of her no-sex wishes.  His Raul shows the patience of Job in ways that would be unlikely for most college hunks, but his naturally low-key and consistently persistent pursuit of Evie is both believable and fun to watch – especially when Mr. Berkeley surprises everyone – Evie and us – in his secret plan finally to seal the deal with her.

Laura Espino, Monica Ho, Ed Berkeley & Drew Reitz
Backing up this fine duo is a cast that sparkles in every comic antic.  Laura Espino is excellent as the sexually charged Kitty whose head instantly turns and body goes into over-drive at the sight of a possible male victim but who also loves being roomie with Evie – gleefully sharing gossip, sternly giving advice, and devilishly plotting how to get her virgin friend finally laid.  Drew Reitz is the rather creepy Ryan who mostly lives in a world of other-reality and who dictatorially rules with warlike commands a group of gamers he has never met.  His social awkwardness and emotional immaturity burst onto the stage in a laugh-out-loud sequence once he thinks he may lose Evie – not as girlfriend but as a virtual teammate. 

Sal Mattos quickly rearranges his half-shaved head with other half full of shoulder-draping hair to change into four completely different characters, including a show-stopping, hair-dresser Nathan who makes Evie beautiful while bringing the house down with his high-pitched, excited recounting of the last boy he pursued in bed.  Amanda Farbstein also nails four walk-on roles, varying from coed Claire’s forcing her boyfriend into just the right pose (“We can’t be official until we take a Facebook selfie”) to a gynecologist who probes with lots of lube into Evie’s most private parts to assure her there is no reason for sex to be out of the question. 

The no-frills stage designed by Devin Kasper of just roving couch, chair, and table coupled with Cat Howser’s minimal (but clever) properties that quickly appear and disappear as needed work well enough for James Nelson’s fast-moving, comedic pace and the seamless changes of the script’s many scenes.  Brooke Jennings creates costumes that prove ready for the campus, for the dance floor, and especially for the virtual battlegrounds of warriors and monsters.

All in all, In Love and Warcraft as produced by Custom Made is a feel-good, light-hearted, but also not-your-everyday romantic comedy that deserves to be seen by Millennials and Boomers alike.

Rating: 4 E’s

In Love and Warcraft continues for The Custom Made Theatre Company at 533 Sutter Street, Second Floor, through December 12, 2015.  Tickets are available online at http://www.custommade.org/box-office-2/.

"Handle with Care"

Handle with Care
Jason Odell Williams (Hebrew Written by Charlotte Cohn)

Roneet Aliza Rahamim and Max Tachis
A snowy Christmas Eve, a nondescript motel room in tiny Goodview, Virginia, and It’s a Wonderful Life marathons on every TV channel can only mean one thing:  a miracle is about to happen.  But before this holiday miracle can come to pass, a grandmother from Israel will die of old age, her casket will be lost by a bumbling delivery guy, and his Jewish best friend will try to recall a few words from his long-ago bar mitzvah in order to placate an hysterical granddaughter who can only speak Hebrew.    

City Lights Theater Company presents Jason Odell Williams’ Handle with Care (with Hebrew by Charlotte Cohn), a 2013 Off-Broadway hit recently optioned for the big screen, and touted as “the perfect Jewish Christmas story.”  Please link to Talkin' Broadway  for my full review: http://www.talkinbroadway.com/regional/sanjose/sj16.html

Rating: 5 E's

City Lights Theater Company continues its production of Handle with Care through December 20, 2015 at 529 South Second Street, San Jose.  Tickets are available online at https://cltc.org/tickets/.

Photo by Susan Mah.

Friday, November 20, 2015

"Steve Cuiffo Is Lenny Bruce"

Steve Cuiffo Is Lenny Bruce
Steve Cuiffo, Arranger & Performer

Steve Cuiffo
As part of the ongoing Curran: Under Construction series, the Curran’s owner and producer extraordinaire, Carole Shorenstein, offers Steve Cuiffo Is Lenny Bruce for just three nights in an intimate, nightclub setting on the main stage, complete with open bar and nibbles (all done while major construction occurs in the front of house). 

How lucky San Francisco is that more, equally intriguing and unique evenings are soon to come as a part of this Under Construction series (including Stew’s Notes of a Native Song December 3-5, elementary school kids’ sketches in Story Pirates’ Greatest Hits Show December 12-13 and 19-20, and Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music January 21-17).  In the meantime, Steve Cuiffo Is Lenny Bruce is not to be missed.

Link to Talkin' Broadway of my full review of the outstanding, one-man show: http://www.talkinbroadway.com/regional/sanfran/s1509.html

Rating: 5 E's

Steve Cuiffo Is Lenny Bruce continues at the Geary Street stage of the Curran Theatre as a part of Curran: Under Construction through November 21.  Tickets are available at http://www.eventbrite.com/o/steve-cuiffo-is-lenny-bruce-curran-under-construction-8448912267.

Photo by Jim Norrena

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Death Takes a Holiday"

Death Takes a Holiday
Maury Yeston (Music & Lyrics)
Peter Stone & Thomas Meehan (Book)
The Tabard Theatre Company
Jessica Whittemore and Stephen Boisvert
Photo by Edmond Kwong
For one weekend in Summer, 1922, Death decides to take a vacation, choosing a lovely villa in Italy and multiple Tony Award winners Maury Yeston, Peter Stone, and Thomas Meehan to tell his story in gorgeous, mesmerizing harmonies and clever, comedic book.  In staging Death Takes a Holiday, The Tabard Theatre Company of San Jose brings to life the Grim Reaper himself to lead a celebration of living, loving, and enjoying to the hilt the simple joys possible in any given day on earth.

Please read my full Talkin' Broadway review, and then head to San Jose to see this fun, unique chamber musical: http://www.talkinbroadway.com/regional/sanjose/sj15.html

Rating: 3 E's

The Tabard Theatre Company continues its run of Death Takes a Holiday through November 28, 2015 at the Theatre on San Pedro Square, Downtown San Jose.  Tickets are available online at www.tabardtheatre.org or by calling 408-679-2330

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"Mother's Milk: A Blues Riff in Three Acts"

Mother’s Milk: A Blues Riff in Three Acts
Wayne Harris (Book); Randy Craig (Music)

Wayne Harris
Interspersed with soulful snippets of blues and gospel, Wayne Harris lovingly and humorously tells the life story of his mother, Ruth, a woman “when she smiled, her cheeks rose up like pop-up biscuits.”  With his own dimpled cheeks, winning smile, and eyes that pop and glisten, the show’s creator and main performer also reveals a lot about himself in The Marsh’s Mother’s Milk: A Blues Riff in Three Act and how his life-long struggles with faith and family begin finally to resolve into a deep understanding of the unconditional love his mother has bestowed on him all her life.  For him, it takes her approaching death, a prayer circle around her hospital bed, and leading a group of pall bearers down a steep ramp to help bring into new integration all those years of her sacrifice; her lessons given him while “cooking, cleaning, and chastising at the same time;” and her deep, unwavering love for her Jesus.

“Well a woman’s life ain’t easy; it’s like a slow-churnin’ blues,” sings Wayne as he begins his mother’s story as an African-American girl of thirteen taking her first job as a domestic, “raising white folks babies” in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Moving to St. Louis as soon as she was seventeen, Ruth has her own five babies, Wayne being the middle.  A stepfather, Uncle Bill, moves in to rescue the family of six from a two-bedroom house; but for all the devotion Uncle Bill shows his mother, young Bill escapes as far as he can to California (also at seventeen because “I hated him”).  He becomes totally independent of the family, only calling his mom “only on holidays and in natural disasters”.

During one of those phone calls, we hear Ruth instructing him bit by bit how to make her famed banana pudding (surely causing everyone in the audience to want just one taste).  In a voice reminiscent of many elderly mothers, she reminds him that the puddings were always short-changed in ‘Nilla Wafers because of a little boy’s hands beating hers into the box of delights (something I totally remember doing in my mother’s kitchen). 

In those same calls across the country, Mama also takes time to worry about his soul and why he has not yet taken Jesus as his savior.  Wayne transforms himself into his mother and other “sistas” of the church sitting in the pews, singing in their old lady voices the likes of “I stood on the banks of the Jordon, seeing those ships go by … Lord, I got my ticket … Please don’t leave me down here.”  Those Pentecostal roots continue to run through his own soul as he rips into “Get right ‘n church … let’s go home.”  For all his ongoing assurances that “I don’t pray” or “I don’t believe,” it becomes clear that Wayne has a lot of Ruth’s faith deep inside him, something she probably is looking down from somewhere and smiling about. 

But this story is really about Wayne and his own journey, with Ruth just the excuse for telling it.  He also becomes a number of other characters who have touched his life along the way.  We are introduced first-hand to his crazy sister Wanda (“She has religious-based psychosis”), a homeless vagabond on Union Street in St. Louis, a fervently shouting-for-the-Lord Reverend Pruitt, and of course, Uncle Bill himself.  We also hear of Wayne’s love affair with the Black Panthers (especially their “cool black jackets”) and how “my first masturbation fantasy included Angela Davis’ afro”).

While his stories and impersonations are heart-warming and fun, it is when Wayne really lets loose in song that we totally understand the love he still holds for his mama.  He croons with gut-deep emotion the entirety of Billy Holiday’s “God Bless the Child,” leaving no eye dry in the audience.  He is ably aided throughout by John McArdle on bass and especially in the distantly familiar, soulful chords and melodies played by Randy Craig on piano.  David Ford directs the flow of the spoken and sung storytelling that in the end has helped each of us in the audience remember our own mothers, the words of caution and love they whispered in our ears as we were growing up, and the journeys we still traveled with them beside us – in spirit if not in person.

Rating: 3 E’s

Mother’s Milk: A Blues Riff in Three Acts continues through December 10 at The Marsh, 2120 Allston Way. Berkeley.  Tickets are available Monday – Friday, 1 - 4 p.m. by calling 415-282-3055 or by going online at http://themarsh.org/mothers_milk/wayne-harris-and-musicians .

Photo by Doug McKechnie

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"The Kid Thing"

The Kid Thing
Sarah Gubbins

Desiree Rogers, Sarah Coykendall, Jaq Nguyen Victor & Kimberley Ridgeway
Sometimes it is the unsaid more than the said that speaks the loudest.  We arrive in the midst of an increasingly heated, even vicious argument between two African American women  -- one chugging alternatively Scotch and wine and the other, downing equally fast her mugs of water.  Quickly we begin to wonder what is behind those eye-to-eye looks that could kill and words that have sharper edges than swords.  After all, is the deceased Michael Jackson and whether he is worthy of others’ grief really a reason for these two dressed-to-impress women coming almost to blows as their stunned and nervously laughing partners look on in what appears to be a evening of coupled get-together?  Buttons are being pushed; and while we laugh at some of the preposterous claims and phrases being tossed back and forth in this fiery fury over nothing, we are yet not sure what buttons and why.  And, we are totally unaware how many more personal hot buttons will be pumped and alarms triggered during the next two hours between these two, lesbian couples who are “just like family.”  Welcome to the West Coast premiere of Sarah Gubbins’ The Kid Thing.  Sit back and buckle your seat belt for a bumpy, initially wildly comic, and later not-funny-at-all ride that the New Conservatory Theatre Center has in store this evening as topics like planned and unplanned parenting, surrogacy, spousal fidelity, and old love flames are to engulf these four friends and spouses.

What is going to ensure our evening’s sojourn one that will linger for a long time in our memories and follow-up conversations is a script that sizzles with snappy dialogues, that bores unabashedly and fearlessly into topics same-sex couples are just beginning to face and address, and that adds complicating twists and turns unforeseen from one minute to the next.  But what truly makes this production a first-class winner is an ensemble of actors who clearly have been pushed to new levels of excellence and daring by a director (Becca Wolff) who milks every intellectual and emotional drop possible from each of the unique and quirky personalities that Sarah Gubbins has handed this cast to tackle.  Ms. Wolff then has directed a pace of sights, sounds, and scenes that literally guarantees that the evening flies by, hardly giving us a chance to catch our breath between gasps of “OMG.”

Margo, a conservatively dressed professor, and Nate, her Geek-Squad and gender-neutral partner in bow tie, are spending a long-overdue evening with PR whiz Margo (dressed ready for Wall Street in black suit, slim tie, and Ferragamos) and her blonde, bouncy partner Leigh, a counselor and quite evidently the cook and “hostess-with-mostest” for the evening.  Once Michael Jackson has been laid to uneasy rest, Margot and Nate shockingly drop what Darcy calls the “the kid bomb,” announcing that Margot is pregnant and setting off a firestorm of opposite reactions from Darcy and Leigh.  Pressure builds over the next few days by Leigh and the other two for hard-nosed, quick-to-say-no Darcy to consider motherhood and to join with Leigh in having a child, even doing so with the same sperm donor, who just happens to be Leigh’s and Nate’s old college buddy, Jacob (now Fulbright scholar and declared “peacemaker” by profession).  But to get to a decision, there are first side deals to be made, secrets to be uncovered, and personal fears and prejudices to be surfaced.

Desiree Rogers is the smartly attired, masculine-leaning Darcy with perfectly tight braids forming cap-like on her head.  Darcy does not casually converse -- ever.  She instead fires words in rapid, machine-gun speeds, often as bullets targeted to win a verbal battle of intellect or to hit hard and hurt.  She proudly admits, “Stress is fun; you guys should try it,” and does not at all balk at Leigh’s description, “Darcy’s brand of sarcasm is an acquired taste … like good Scotch.”  Ms. Rogers creates a fortressed personality that can hide only so long the emotional battle scars of past wars underneath her so-controlled façade. 

With a voice that travels upwards in octaves as she becomes excited -- which is often -- and happily parading about in cupcake-decorated apron, Leigh is quite the contrast to her partner, Darcy, in almost every conceivable dimension.  Sarah Coykendall brings ebullience to Leigh that Darcy terms “a genetic predisposition,” riding a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs at speeds any Six Flags Amusement Park would envy.  She moves about like a wild pinball while, with increasingly steely eyes and locked jaw, determinedly zeroes in on a targeted goal of motherhood that no one, not even Darcy, is about to deter her from reaching. 

Her side accomplice is best-friend Nate, a super cute, boyish Jaq Nguyen Victor with head of hair half-shaved, half-drooping like a long sideburn.  Together, they squeal on the couch in a ball of tittering excitement about the idea of having kids at the same time; and they plunge into a plan that Nate furiously puts into play with flying fingers on a cell phone.  Nate, sometimes more kid than adult in looks, reactions, and demeanor, is the mate of the rather reserved, traditional, and now pregnant Margo.  Kimberly Ridgeway is more often than not the adult in the room, bringing a sense of calmness that can certainly flare into eyes that can paralyze another’s moves, especially when pushed by Darcy’s relentless prods and pokes. 

A latecomer to this story is lumber-sexual Jacob, a character totally entwined in ways obvious and not in its plots. This bearded, rugged-looking, Caucasian giant with teddy bear demeanor and puppy eyes has donated one of his sperm to Margo and college pal Nate and is considering sparing another to Leigh and Darcy.  (“I make a 100,000 a day … That’s a quadrillion in a lifetime … I can spare one or two.”)  Nick Mandracchia brings a big, soft heart in that mellow voice but also an air of confident determination behind those big, dark eyes and is not one to be dismissed or steam-rolled by someone like Darcy.

Together, this powerhouse cast knocks the ball out of the park in conveying a story and raising subjects that pertain not just to lesbians or gays, but to every modern, two-career couple considering the pros and cons of parenting, especially when that might entail a third person enabling conception.  Aided by a smartly attractive set of an art-enhanced condo designed by Yusuke Soi; clever props of food, drink, and accessories that make everything appear chichi enough for a Chicago suburban couple by Prop Designer Daniel Yelen; and lighting (Sophia Craven) and sound (James Ard) that more than work well during and in between each scene (including Mr. Ard’s music that both echoes and contrasts the changing moods), the evening is all but perfect.  The only flaw is an ending of the play that just plops down on the stage and sits there without moving.  When the lights go down, much-deserved applause is slow to come because, in my opinion, everyone is left wondering, “You mean, that’s it?”  Much applause does rise as the cast finally appears.  Perhaps even though we leave a bit stunned and wondering what really will happen next to those we have met on the evening’s stage, that is the whole point -- to leave with more questions than answers to topics that are only going to get dicier as our society continues to become more diverse in its family and coupled make-ups.

Congratulations to New Conservatory Theatre, to Becca Wolf, and to this fine cast of five for an evening of riveting, non-stop dialogue that leaves its audience with much to ponder and debate.

Rating: 5 E’s 

The New Conservatory Theatre Center continues its production of The Kid Thing through December 13, 2015, 25 Van Ness, San Francisco.  Tickets are available online at http://www.nctcsf.org/2015-16-season/the-kid-thing, by emailing boxoffice@nctcsf.org, or by calling the box office at 4165-861-8972,

Photo by Lois Tema

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Nina Raine

Morgan Dayley & Greg Anderson
A returning adult son is welcomed at the dinner table by his Dad: “Welcome back … Join in and have an argument.”  So starts Pear Theatre’s current production of the 2012 Drams Desk Outstanding Play winner, Tribes, by Nina Raine; and so begins an often riveting, sometimes hilarious, always compelling evening of live theatre.  For my full review, please link to Talkin' Broadway http://www.talkinbroadway.com/regional/sanjose/sj14.html.

Rating: 4 E's

Pear Theatre continues its production of Tribes through November 22 at 1110 Avenida Avenue, Mountain View.  Tickets are available online at www.thepear.org or by calling 650-254-1148.

Photo by Ray Renati